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Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the “Big Nate” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Nate Wright is a sixth-grader who enjoys drawing comics. He lives with his dad and sister, and he hangs out with best friends Teddy and Francis. Unlike his sister, Ellen, and brainiac classmate, Gina, Nate isn’t the best student. He does seem to excel at getting in trouble though.

In comic form and text, Nate shares snippets of his daily life at P.S. 38. He goes to great lengths to get out of a test, only to learn no test was scheduled. He describes his teachers and their quirks. He recalls how he met his friend Teddy and how having detention together solidified their friendship.

Nate gets a fortune cookie that says he will surpass all others today. He’s convinced he will achieve something great, so he spends the day trying to discover what it is. In his first class, Mrs. Godfrey catches him writing a long list of disparaging nicknames for her. She writes him a detention slip. He wonders if this could be the day he convinces classmate Jenny to choose him over her boyfriend, Artur. In his next class, the teacher gives a poetry assignment. Nate starts to write Jenny a love poem, but when Gina sees it, she tells the whole class. Nate yells at Gina, and he gets a second detention slip for insulting a classmate.

Nate is upset that Artur’s drawing, not his, has been displayed in the hall. The art teacher catches him trying to break into the display case and gives him a third detention slip. At lunch, a classmate is reading a book of world records. Nate and his friends decide Nate should set a record for speed eating. Unfortunately for Nate, green beans are the only food they can gather from other students. Nate is already feeling ill a minute into his attempt. Then the principal arrives. After shutting down the speed eating, the principal slips and falls on a pile of green beans. Nate gets a lecture, as well as another detention slip.

Before gym, Nate spills water on the front of his shorts. It looks like he has wet his pants. The only other shorts he can find belong to the portly gym teacher. Nate has to stuff towels in the shorts to keep them up. When the teacher sees him, he thinks Nate is mocking him. With a stomach still full of green beans, Nate is forced to run wind sprints before getting another detention slip.

Nate collects two more detention slips from math and science teachers before the day is over. He’s particularly frustrated because he doesn’t feel any of his detentions were worth the time he’ll have to spend working them off. What’s worse, his fortune still hasn’t come true.

When he gives the detention monitor his slips, she tells him she believes he has set a school record for the most detention slips in one day. Nate is thrilled to hear his fortune cookie was right. He has surpassed all others at something today. He writes on the detention room desk that he is a school record holder.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

Nate says he likes getting his fortune told and that he is into things like horoscopes and Magic 8 balls.

Authority Roles

Nate and his sister live with their dad, whom Nate considers clueless. Nate depicts his teachers and principal as mean, boring, humorless, gullible or oblivious to what is happening around them.


The word butt appears half a dozen times.


A cartoon depicts a boy and girl kissing next to a locker.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Lying: Nate lists a number of ways he could try to deceive his teacher so he won’t have to take a test. He forges a letter from his dad, excusing him for a dentist appointment. In the end, he can’t bring himself to forge Dad’s signature because he’s afraid of breaking the law and getting caught.

Bullying: Nate makes several mentions of a school bully named Chester. One of Nate’s sketches mentions that his (Nate’s) lunchtime activities include throwing carrot sticks at a classmate named Brad.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

8 to 12




Lincoln Peirce






Record Label



Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers


On Video

Year Published





We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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